The Electoral College No Longer Serves Its Stated Purpose. Let’s Abolish It.

Presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, recently provoked controversy by unequivocally calling for the abolition of the Electoral College.

Warren has a point. While James “Father of the Constitution” Madison created the Electoral College because he claimed that he feared “factions” that could create a “tyranny of the majority,” the Electoral College has instead created de facto minority rule. Because the Electoral College unfairly advantages less populous states, the Electoral College has produced five — yes, five! — men who ascended to the Oval Office with fewer votes than their opponents. While this happened most recently in 2016, four other men have become president that way. And, according to C-Span’s 2017 Presidential Ranking, all but John Quincy Adams rank in the bottom half of the pack.

The list is below:

  1. Abraham Lincoln
    2. George Washington
    3. FDR
    4. Theodore Roosevelt
    5. Dwight Eisenhower
    6. Harry Truman
    7. Thomas Jefferson
    8. JFK
    9. Ronald Reagan
    10. LBJ
    11. Woodrow Wilson
    12. Barack Obama
    13. James Monroe
    14. James K. Polk
    15. Bill Clinton
    16. William McKinley
    17. James Madison
    18. Andrew Jackson
    19. John Adams
    20. George H.W. Bush
    21. John Quincy Adams *
    22. Ulysses S. Grant
    23. Grover Cleveland
    24. William Taft
    25. Gerald Ford
    26. Jimmy Carter
    27. Calvin Coolidge
    28. Richard Nixon
    29. James Garfield
    30. Benjamin Harrison *
    31. Zachary Taylor
    32. Rutherford B. Hayes*
    33. George W. Bush *
    34. Martin Van Buren
    35. Chester A. Arthur
    36. Herbert Hoover
    37. Millard Fillmore
    38. William Henry Harrison
    39. John Tyler
    40. Warren G. Harding
    41. Franklin Pierce
    42. Andrew Johnson
    43. James Buchanan

With the exception of John Quincy Adams, who hovers near the bottom of the top half, all the EC winners/popular vote losers languish near the bottom of the list. While a hostile Congress is partially to blame for John Quincy Adams' less than stellar presidential record, the other three presidents were either mediocre or downright incompetent.

A quick rundown:

• Rutherford B. Hayes. His decision to end Reconstruction in the post-Civil War South ushered in nearly one hundred years of Jim Crow, an institution whose vestiges can still be felt today.
• Benjamin Harrison. A so-so president with no major accomplishments to his name. He has the dubious distinction of being the only president who was preceded and succeeded by the same person.
• George W. Bush. 9/11, two disastrous wars (one of which was initiated under a false pretext, an actual war crime), a botched response to Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States, and the Great Recession.

And Donald Trump's unique brand of malicious incompetence has guaranteed him a spot at the bottom of the presidential rankings--perhaps permanently.

By contrast, many of the men in the top half of the list, easily won election. FDR, who handily won four terms as President of the United States, is ranked number three. Eisenhower, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and LBJ, four politicians who won in actual landslides, are ranked fifth, seventh, ninth and tenth respectively. Obama won more than sixty-nine million votes in his first election, more votes than any other presidential candidate in history and almost ten million more votes than his challenger; Obama is currently ranked as the twelfth best president. While Lincoln (#1), Wilson (#11), Clinton (#15), and the elder Adams (#19) won the White House with pluralities, and Truman (#6) and JFK (#8) just barely won their races, they all got more votes than their opponents.

Popular vote winners have consistently over-performed in office. This proves that the American people can be trusted to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes time to choose a president. We don't need the Electoral College to protect us from bad leaders.

Instead, the Electoral College has been perverted to ensure that a (shrinking) minority of increasingly reactionary voters continue to have an outsized influence in American politics. And, given that the Electoral College was designed to protect the interests of elite slave-owning white men, the institution is antiquated anyway.

If American democracy is to be saved, the Electoral College needs to be abolished.

*Electoral College winner/popular vote loser.

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